Monthly Archives: November, 2012

Make Your Own Take-Out – General Tso Chicken

This recipe turned out SOOOOO good.  We love a good spicy sesame chicken or General Tso chicken from the local Chinese restaurant.  When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try making it myself.  It was crispy, sweet, spicy, and just delicious!  There wasn’t a bit of it left over!  It will definitely be a regular at our house!

Make Your Own Take-Out General Tso Chicken

Recipe adapted from www.melskitchencafe.com

2-4 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten

Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 c. Frank’s Buffalo Hot Sauce for Wings
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 c. frozen or fresh broccoli

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

While the oil is heating, cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Put the chicken into the bag with the cornstarch and seal, tossing to coat the chicken.

Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Dip the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then flip each piece over to cook on the other side until nicely golden but not all the way cooked through. Place in a single layer in a 9X13-inch baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken in the baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce.

While the chicken is cooking, steam broccoli.  Serve over hot, steamed brown rice.

Husband Rating: 8 out of 10

Food for Thought: By using the buffalo sauce, it takes a little of the heat down a notch for the chicken but it still had a good kick.  It was a little hot for our three year old.  I would recommend looking at the sweet and sour chicken recipe from the same blog.  I made the same one that night and although I personally preferred the spicy chicken, the boys liked the sweet and sour and our whole family was happy.  (You make the chicken basically the same way, just a different sauce you bake it with.)

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Garlic Roasted Chicken

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw these HUGE whole chickens and was inspired to roast a chicken for dinner.  When I say huge, I mean a 7 1/2 pound chicken… small turkey???  No, it really is a chicken but it does feel a bit like we are doing a Thanksgiving preview around here.  Watching some football, the bird is in the oven, not a bad way to spend out Sunday. 

Garlic Roasted Chicken

Recipe adapted from www.fortheloveofcooking.net

1 whole chicken
1 Tbsp. softened butter
2-3 tsp. minced garlic
1 small yellow onion, cut into wedges
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil cooking spray
salt/pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove any giblets from the chicken and rinse chicken inside and out.  Pat dry.

In a small bowl, combine butter and 2 -3 tsp. minced garlic (to your taste preferences).  I go heavy on garlic because I love it!  Loosen the skin around the chicken breasts and coat breasts with butter mixture.

Coat outside of the chicken with cooking spray and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. 

Combine parsley, smashed garlic cloves, and onion and stuff inside bird cavity.  Place the bird on a roasting rack on a roasting pan.

Bake chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes per pound (so for me that was about 2 1/2 hours) or until the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes covered in tin foil lightly tented over the bird to allow the juices to redistribute before cutting and serving. 

Husband Rating: 5 out of 10

Food for Thought: If you plan to stuff your bird, add at least 15 minutes to your cooking time.

Crispy Flounder with Roasted Tomatoes and Potato Leek Hash

I need to start working on making fish more often.  I just get kind of intimidated with buying good quality fish, cooking it in a way that turns out well, and not having it go to waste on my kids (who often don’t like fish). 

Tonight though, my littlest one LOVED the fish eating his fillet, half of mine, and his brothers (who true to form refused all but his no-thank-you bite of fish).  So, I guess I just need to buck up and make fish more often.  It wasn’t hard to make and it turned out well. 

Crispy Flounder with Roasted Tomatoes and Potato Leek Hash

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, May 2012

Tomatoes:
2 Tbsp. kalamata olives, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt/pepper, to taste
1/4 c. fresh basil, thinly sliced
Fish:
1 c. panko
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 6-oz. skinless flounder fillets
cooking spray
salt/pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Hash:
1 package refrigerator shredded hash brown potatoes
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 tsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Instructions:

In a large oven proof skillet, toss olives, olive oil, and cherry tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

In a shallow dish, combine panko, parsley, and thyme.  Rinse and pat dry fish fillets.  Generously coat each fillet with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge fillets in panko mixture and set aside on a plate.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Add potatoes, leeks, 1 tsp. thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 12 minute or until golden brown, stirring frequently.  Set aside when done. 

When oven is heated, put tomatoes in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

 While tomatoes are baking, heat oil to cook fish.  Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil at a time over medium-high heat.  Add 2 fillets to pan and cook 3 minutes per side or until reaches desired doneness.  Remove from pan onto a plate lined with a paper towel.  Repeat with remaining fish.

When tomatoes are done, top with basil.  Serve fish with hash and tomatoes.  Yum!

Husband Rating: 5 out of 10

Food for Thought: The original recipe called for capers instead of kalamata olives.  I think capers would also be delicious in this recipes and would like to try that next time too!  I thought that having hash browns for dinner was a little odd but am willing to maybe give this meal another shot but with maybe doing the potatoes in another format.  I guess I am a hashbrowns for breakfast kind of gal… 

Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce with Sausage and Gnocchi

What was on the menu wasn’t really thrilling me today.  So, I looked around my newly organized pantry and in my fridge and freezer and pulled together the following items and came up with a yummy dinner!  And, the kids… they liked it!  One love gnocchi and so he ate as much of that as I could keep on his plate.  The other loved the sausage in the sauce and devoured that.  In fact, they even resorted to swapping the parts of their meals with each other that they liked best.  Works for me! 

Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce with Sausage and Gnocchi

5 Italian sausage links (I used Trader Joes Spicy Italian Vino and Formaggio Chicken Sausage)
4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 c. baby spinach
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 c. tomato basil sauce
1 pkg. multi-colored gnocchi
fresh grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 minced garlic cloves.  Remove sausage from casings and cook in oil.  When sausage is cooked through, add spinach and cook until wilted.  Add tomato basil sauce, dried basil, and cream cheese and reduce heat to low.  Stir occationally to combine as cream cheese melts into the sauce.

In a seperate pan, bring water to a boil.  Boil gnocchi for 2-3 minutes until they are floating on the surface of the water and are tender.  Remove from water and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil and garlic cloves until fragrant.  Place gnocchi in a single layer in the pan.  Cook until it begins to get crisp on one side (about 3-4 minutes).  Give the pan a good shake to rotate some of the gnocchi.  Cook for another 2-4 minutes until gnocchi are crispy all around.

Serve gnocchi with sauce on top and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Husband Rating: 6 out of 10 (My husband is a bit of a sauce snob – he likes white sauces to be white, red sauces to be red, but doesn’t like when the sauces are a bit in-between like tonight.  So, I was pleasantly surprised with a six on a meal I didn’t really think he would like!)  🙂

Food for Thought: You could skip the crisping part of the gnocchi and serve it soft as well.  I just personally like the texture of the crispy gnocchi in contrast to the sauce.  If you are pinched for time or don’t want to dirty another pan, simply just boil the gnocchi and serve! 

Rosemary Garlic Pork Tenderloin

I have been feeling unispired for dinner the last week or so… just no knowing what to cook or even what ingredients I wanted to try.  I figured that since I didn’t really know where to start, the best thing to do was to work on clearing out a few of the basics that were sitting in our deep freeze. 

We had a bunch of pork tenderloins and so inspired by a meal I had recently had at a restaurant, I looked up pork tenderloins using maple bacon.  This recipe is what I found and it was delish!  I would say the pepper was a bit intense in the rub and I might cut back on it a bit next time.  However, it was overall delicious, a great warm meal on a cool Fall day!

 

 
Rosemary Garlic Pork Tenderloin
 
Recipe adapted from www.foodnetwork.com
 
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves, plus 4 sprigs rosemary, with hard woody stems
5 large garlic cloves, 2 cloves minced, 3 cloves smashed
2 pork tenderloins, about 1-pound each
6 slices maple bacon
 
Instructions
 
In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, fresh ground black pepper, chopped rosemary, and minced garlic and mix well. Rub the mustard mixture over the surface of the tenderloins and wrap in plastic wrap. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place rosemary sprigs and smashed garlic in the center of a roasting pan. Remove the plastic wrap from the tenderloins and top each with 3 slices of maple bacon.

Place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes minutes or until thermometer inserted in tenderloin registers 160 degrees F. Remove from oven when desired doneness is reached and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.  Slice and serve.

Husband Rating: 8 out of 10

It has to get worse before it can get better…

Today, I digress from my usually recipe posting to venture into another of my favorite past times – organizing!  My kitchen has been driving me up the walls! It has been in need of a MAJOR overhaul!

When we moved into our house, my older son was three weeks old.  I had just had a c-section and could lift minimally.  I just basically shoved things into cupboards in order to have our boxes unpacked and cookware accessible.  As time went on, many items found homes in different inconvienent spaces because I needed to keep them away from curious toddlers.

I finally hit the wall when I came home from Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago with several items I already had in my pantry but didn’t know about because there was no organization to it!  I mean, really, does one need the empty box for their child’s nebulizer next to the apple peeler/corer/slicer next to the tomato soup in the pantry?  Does that really make sense?  Should my cake pans, dinner plates, measuring cups, and serving bowls all be shoved into the same cupboard?  Why can’t I ever find any lids for my tupperware containers – is it because they are scattered in the deep recesses of the pantry shelf my tupperware lives on?  My kitchen was driving me bananas! 

Here are a few pictures of my sad pantry and spice cabinet… I didn’t snap pics of all our cupboards… just a few to expose my shove and shut the door method of organizing (with fingers crossed that nothing falls out the next time I open the door)!  This obviously wasn’t working!

So, I arranged for the boys to be neatly tucked away at Grandma and Grandpa’s for the day, did a little shopping ahead of time at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get some great kitchen organization tools, and did a little research on my new favorite blog obsession www.iheartorganizing.blogspot.com, and a few other websites for kitchen organization tips. 

And, finally, today was the day for all the fun to begin!!!  All the various websites I looked at suggested that in order to truly get yourself organized, you really need to start from scratch.  Meaning, empty your cupboards completely and then reload in an organized manor.  So that is exactly what I did. 

I started emptying a few cupboard before dropping the boys off at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  My three year old (seen below) thought it was pretty cool seeing Mom destroy the kitchen!
 
 
It must get worse before it can get better…

 
Much worse…

 

Ok, at this point, I had my doubts… Would it all fit back into our kitchen?  Could I get this done in one day?  Would I have the energy to get it all done and do it properly without just giving up after a few hours and starting to shove everything back in where ever it fit just to get it done? 
 
I put on some great music, drank a little more of my pumpkin latte from Caribou I picked up after dropping off the boys, and dove back in. 
 
I worked for probably between 9 and 10 hours from empty to organize but the results are outstanding!!!  Here are a few of the after shots!!!
 
Baking Supplies and Spices Cabinet
 
I have a LOT of spices so in addition to my lazy susan I was already using I added a step shelf so the spices were not just stacked three deep but can be seen. I also bought canisters for my sugars and flours so they are neatly stored rather than in bags that spill all over all the time.
 
 
My favorite little trick I found on the web was using these little 3M hooks to hang your measuring cups and spoons right on the inside of the door of your cabinet so they are readily accessible for baking without taking up shelf space.  LOVE it!!!
 
 
The other thing that I did that seems really helpful was to get a clear bin to put all my various nuts in.  That way when a recipe calls for pine nuts, macademia nuts, pecans, walnuts, etc., I can just pull out that container and see what I have rather than shuffle through bags of nuts on the shelf.  So much easier! (Prettier labels yet to come… just needed something for the moment!)  🙂
 
 
Dishes and cookware were organized by use/category – daily use, baking, food prep, etc.  Each cabinet and drawer has a more focused purpose now.  And, the location is more appropriate too with daily use items in cabinets near the sink and dishwasher, food prep items in the cabinet under our kitchen island, etc.  All of this in an effort to make cooking more streamlined!  It’s so lovely and organized and I am such a nerd!
 
 
 
 
And, finally, the pantry… which needed the most help!  Remember?  It had the empty box from my son’s nebulizer in it, next to the apple peeler/corer/slicer I use once a year, next to the 6 boxes of tomato soup I bought in bulk at Costco, next to the paper plates and cups from Halloween and birthday parties…  And, now… lovely organization!!!!!!
 
In here, the main objective was to keep it mainly food related (with the exceptions being food storage – baggies, tin foil, plastic wrap, paper towels) and for each shelf to have a category.  My main categories included pastas, grains, canned goods, and quick grab lunch food (soup, mac-n-cheese, etc.).  By creating categories, my hope is that when it comes to grocery list making time, I can more easily glance quickly at the shelf to see what is needed rather than hunt through three cabinets to see where all the different locations of canned goods are and see what I have.
 
The other piece that I think is helpful is to condense all the smaller bags of various grains and rice into a large bin.  They, like the nuts mentioned above, tend to scatter all over a shelf and be hard to locate and keep neat.  By putting them all into one bin, I can easily grab the bin out when I am cooking and get the quinoa, rice, or barley I need to cook!  Yay for great organization! 
 
(Oh, and another tip I saw online often was clear bins, as you can see I used.  It is easier to quickly glance at what you have rather than having to dig through as you would with wicker baskets or opaque baskets.)
 
 
Last but not least, our former “junk” cabinet… the one where we put all the bills to be paid, the mail coming in and out of the house, the pens, pencils, scissors, etc.  Now, one shelf holds such items and the top shelves are my cookbooks and extra party supplies (crepe paper, cups, napkins, plastic silverware, plates).   
 
 
And, I used an old silverware organizer that we no longer needed to organize the “junk” drawer below the junk cabinet!  Not bad! 
 
 
After all was said and done, I was left with one empty drawer and a few empty shelves in two cabinets.  I love that I have room to grow.  Yes, I did throw out about 3 bags of trash as well as donate to charity one large box of items we no longer use.  However, considering the massive piles that I saw this morning and the daunting nature of the task, I think it went rather well!!!
 
Here are my highlights for you if you want to do a little kitchen reorganize yourself:
  • Start by completely emptying the space you want to reorganize
  • Sort your items into categories – daily use, baking, food prep, etc.
  • Use clear bins to hold smaller like items such as nuts, grains, rice, etc. (and label your bins!!!)
  • Utilize hanging spaces such as hanging measuring spoons and cups on backs of cabinets
Happy Organizing!!!!!
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